Thursday, September 5, 2013

Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole; Book Review and Giveaway

Alona Pulde, M.D. and Matthew Lederman, M.D., Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole: Your Guide to Optimum Health Exsalus California: Health & Wellness Center; 2010.

Dr. Alona Pulde and her husband Dr. Matthew Lederman, two of the stars from the documentary Forks Over Knives and recent partners of Whole Food Market's Global Medical Executives of Health and Wellness, wrote a phenomenal work simply titled Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole. I’ve been reading a lot of nutrition and sports physiology books lately; however, this little book blew me away both for it’s breadth of knowledge as well as for the elegance and simplicity of it’s message.

Their title pretty much expresses the main theme of the book. While other works make strong cases for a similar diet (oil-free whole food, plant based) few of them can achieve what Dr.’s Pulde and Lederman have done. In essence they’ve combined a powerful argument for a strict plant-based messaged with a practical, public health-style approach. The result is a mixture between the latest nutritional research and common sense application.

The work operates under the notion that health is not a definitive one-size fits all. Rather, it explains that health is a scale, and every step towards the healthier end of that scale is a success. The authors have also created a simple grading rubric classifying various food types. Unlike, Dr. Joel Furhman's ANDI System, this system uses food categories rather than individual foods making it simpler to understand and apply. Not surprisingly, meat and dairy received an F grade, and most processed foods received a D. As such, most Americans are consistently failing when it comes to eating for health.

At the other end of the scale are whole plant foods such as grains and pseudograins like rice and quinoa, root vegetables and dark leafy greens, all receiving an A+. Richer foods like avocados, nuts, seeds as well as slightly processed whole foods like whole grain breads receive a slightly lower grade (A). Foods like soy milk, white rice and no-oil dressings receive an A- indicating that those foods should be consumed in lower quantities. Not surprisingly, according to the authors, the goal is to try and live within the A range of foods. However, this is where the authors demonstrate their flexibility. Rather than telling their readers that they should only consume these foods, they instead tell the readers to aim to have an average of A foods, not to only have A foods. So if someone is really craving a few cookies (which earn, at best, a C-) they should then strive to balance that out by eating healthier A+ foods for much of the rest of the day. They say the more often one is able to do this, the further up on the health scale one will be.

The book also recognize that not everyone is ready to live exclusively off A foods. For those people who are looking at making changes incrementally, they suggest simply moving up the food scale as much and as often as possible.

They also stress not to eat exclusively from the A+ foods. While dark greens may be the healthiest; starches, legumes, and more rich foods are needed to ensure that one is getting enough calories. Otherwise, a person is in risk of both starving themselves and depriving themselves of having satisfying meals, which will lead to a burnout of will and typically results in bingeing on the least healthy foods. As such, Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman implore their readers to eat a wide variety of plant foods – not just salads. They've also created a simple three-course guide to healthy eating. The first course should be a large serving of raw or cooked vegetables. They call this the “multivitamin” course and stress that this should be the largest of the three courses for people looking to loose weight. The second course is the filling course. This course should be “heavier” foods like lentils or potatoes. The final course is the smallest and also optional. Think of this portion more like a side, as it will consists of slightly more processed foods such as oil-free chips and salsa, dairy-free pizza, or whole grain breads. As one becomes more confident in their progress on the health continuum scale, these three dishes can be simplified into one large course.

Consisting of fourteen relatively short and easy to read chapters, Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman cover everything you need to know before starting your journey towards health. From in-depth discussions about why supplementing DHA can be dangerous to the ever-persistent concerns surrounding protein. And best of all, they've included footnotes citing the studies that have helped influence their program so more reading is easily obtained on each topic.

The book also has a small section of recipes. Here they include all types of healthful foods from smoothies to Mac N “Cheese” to chocolate cupcakes with frosting. Most of the recipes are simple and they use easy-to-find ingredients.

Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough, especially for those of you who are plant-curious. That said, the book is not dumbed down, and offers something for even those with a more advanced understanding of nutrition. However because it’s from a very small publishing, it won’t be easily found in too many bookstores. So check out  Transition to HealthBarnes and Noble’s website, or enter below for your chance to win one of three copies that BYOL is giving away and begin your journey towards improved health. One thing is certain, by the time you are done reading this work, you’ll be wishing that Dr Pulde and Dr. Lederman were your primary care givers!


Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman have agreed to give away three copies of Keep it Simple, Keep it Whole. Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). The contest will end on September 20th at midnight. To enter, you must be a subscribed reader to BYOL. To increase your chances of winning leave a comment on this post or/and "like" BYOL on facebook.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As always the information presented in this blog is for educational purposes only. It should not be considered as specific medical, nutritional, lifestyle, or other health-related advice.


  1. Hi I fully agree with your assessment as I am currently reading the book myself. I found the Drs' after I watched Forks over Knives along with Dr. McDougall. I actually found your blog 29 minutes after you posted it because I am searching for the Exsalus Food Continuum List online because it's too small for me to read in the book, I just can't clearly see it.Please post if you have a JPEG or ask the Drs' to do it. I'm probably not alone. Thanks

    1. Hi Robert,
      Thanks for visiting and I'm glad you agree with my assessment. I just contacted Dr. Pulde asking her if she has a larger image. I will share it with you if she has one.


    2. Hi Robert,
      I added a high res image of the Food Continuum above. I hope this helps.

  2. You might be surprised to learn that I average a solid B-! Any idea why Whole Foods isn't carrying the book?

  3. As always, well written blog! When I first saw the Documentary Fork Over Knives I was intrigued by Dr. Pulde and Dr. Lederman and how they kept everything simple, whole and easy to understand. I am excited about this book. The changes I have made in my eating habits (I fall into a nice A category!) have made my life so much better, in every aspect.

  4. I watched the documentary Fork Over Knives and that's actually what motivated me to change my eating habits. What once was filled with junk food and candy is now cleaned up and mostly raw foods!

  5. Forks Over Knives was the "final straw" in helping my husband and I make the leap to eating plant based. Yay!

  6. I enjoyed Dr. Lederman's presentation at the Farms to Forks weekend in southern California earlier this year. I look forward to reading his book. Thank you for posting about it.

  7. Why no a Grading scale for food. We are raising with one all through our school years so maybe this is what people will related most to.

  8. Sounds like an interesting book, Anthony. I'd love to know the actual research behind his recommendations. Are they covered in the book? Also, if you did an interview with him, I'd love to know what he eats in a day (akin to a WIAW post).

  9. Great review! This is one of the books on my "to-read" list, and from what I've gathered from your blog post it seems like I'll enjoy it! I think it's definitely good that they have a book out because from what I remember seeing in the past, they are currently not taking any new clients at Exsalus because they are fully booked with clients. So this way, people can still get the information from the doctors and begin implementing it into their lives.

    If you get to interview Dr.Pulde, I'd be interested to hear about some of their most impressive or exciting success stories from working with patients. Also, as someone aspiring to go into plant-based nutrition, I would enjoy hearing her advice for those hoping to head into the field and help empower people to find health and happiness :)

  10. Howdy! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I'd figured I'd ask.
    Would you be interested in trading links or maybe guest writing a blog post or vice-versa?

    My blog addresses a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you're interested feel free to shoot
    me an email. I look forward to hearing from you! Excellent
    blog by the way!

    Visit my web site ... เกมส์ทำอาหาร